Yachting: Must win leg for Camper crew

By Dana Johannsen

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson believes once they hit the Pacific, the conditions will suit their boat better.
Photo / Hamish Hooper
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson believes once they hit the Pacific, the conditions will suit their boat better. Photo / Hamish Hooper

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton has laid down the law - Camper must win the next leg of the Volvo Ocean Race to Auckland.

While the goal was to win every leg, the Auckland stopover was targeted from the outset as a must-win for the Camper boat if New Zealand is to reconnect with the round-the-world yacht race again.

But topping the podium in leg four has now become critical to Camper's overall race ambitions as they look to make up ground on leaders Telefonica, who have won the first three legs of the nine-stage race.

"The leg into Auckland has got a lot of historical value, and it's really how people remember the old Whitbread round-the-world race," said Dalton.

"For all the guys on board and for us as an organisation it is an important leg. It's important also for the points. We're second and hanging on really only by a little bit and we really need to arrest the march of Telefonica, who are sailing well."

Camper rookie Adam Minoprio, who is on his first round-the-world campaign, said sailing into his hometown port early next month is something he has been looking forward to since the fleet left Alicante, Spain, nearly four months ago.

"Sailing into Auckland Harbour, which is where growing up I did all my sailing, is going to be special," said Minoprio. "I just can't wait for that trip down the coast of New Zealand with excitement building and then crossing the finish line. It will be something else. I think it's going to be the highlight of the race for everyone aboard."

But before the crew can even start thinking about the comforts of home, they must first worry about how they are going to get to the Philippines.

The weather models show that soon after the fleet departs Sanya on Sunday they will hit gale-force winds and will likely experience big waves and hard upwind conditions for the first 700 miles.

Think an extremely brutal Sydney-to-Hobart race.

But on top of the difficult weather, Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said the crews will also face a variety of unknowns that come with sailing in a part of the world not exactly conducive to ocean racing.

"There is a lot of current and a lot of wind normally associated with getting up and around the Philippines, and there's a lot of shipping and debris in the water.

"We're still in that part of the world that you normally don't race yachts in, so there are still factors that could happen to boats that is kind of out of people's control.

"Until we really get away from that, life won't be normal," he said.

The difficult conditions will mean Camper will have to sail in survival mode for the first part of the race and be cautious of pushing the boat too hard. But once they hit the Pacific, Nicholson believes the conditions will suit their boat.

Camper have shown blistering pace in downwind conditions but have lacked speed on upwind sections of the legs.

"I think the boat is better suited for the next two legs, and that should hopefully play into our hands a lot better than the first three legs."

Where have Team New Zealand struggled?

1. Tactical errorsIn ocean-racing, one poor decision can mean the winning and losing of a race as Camper discovered in legs 1 and 3. Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton admits he has concerns about the number of tactical errors and initiated changes aboard Camper to try to eliminate these mistakes.

2. ConditionsThe conditions Camper have encountered over the first three legs largely haven't suited the moding of the boat.

"To date this hasn't been a race for this boat - too much flat water and too much being locked into one particular point of sail," said skipper Chris Nicholson. The Camper boat has shown blistering speed in downwind conditions, which they should experience more over the next two legs.

3. Piracy-related measuresThe extraordinary measures put in place to ensure the fleet avoided the areas most affected by piracy have proved disruptive to Camper's progress. With the boats transported by ship through the most dangerous areas, two sprint legs were held in and out of Abu Dhabi, each carrying 20 per cent of the points for the overall leg. Team New Zealand struggled to match the pace of the leading yachts on these short sprint legs and missed out on valuable points.

4. LuckNicholson believes while Telefonica have sailed exceptionally well, they also seem to have had incredibly good luck at times. Camper came close to beating the Spanish crew in to the Maldives in leg two. The pair were neck and neck, until a rogue cloud slowed Camper, and Telefonica snuck through for a narrow win. "Telefonica are strong all-round, but the ball has bounced their way a lot, and it's bounced against us and that kind of thing evens out over time, so we're quietly awaiting that to happen."

- NZ Herald

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